Parents that bring their children to my offices ask me what they can be doing to prevent cavities at home. Most of them are very concerned whether it be because of what they’ve seen in mommy articles, what their friends have told them, or their own personal experience in the dental world. It breaks my heart to see children with rampant decay or caps throughout their mouths so I want to provide as much information as I can to moms and dads.
Cavity prevention starts at home first. First thing you should know is what causes cavities.
Cavities are caused by the mouth being in an acidic state. Whether it be by drinking juices, milk, crackers, candy, or just the acidic sticky plaque they create, their little teeth can erode away if you don’t take good care of them!
Best ways to prevent cavities are to make sure that their drinks, snacks and meals are not lasting all day. If a child is sipping on a juice all day long, it is worse for their teeth than if they drink 2 gallons of juice in one sitting (obviously not a realistic example but you get the idea. Every time they put their juice down, they have 20 minutes for the pH in their mouths to rebalance with their saliva. If their mouths are in an acidic state, the bacteria that causes cavities grips on to the tooth and builds a colony and causes decay within the tooth.
Here’s how to prevent that, brushing/flossing/rinsing, xylitol, and fluoride, as well as diet.
You absolutely must brush or clean the teeth with a washcloth from the minute they are visible! Any child under the age of 7/8 years old should be getting help from Mom and Dad to brush their teeth, they simply don’t have the dexterity that we do. Make sure to get all surfaces. Use just water until your kids are around 2/3 and after that just a little smear of toothpaste until Kindergarten. After that a pea size will do.
Flossing is so important to prevent cavities, and gingivitis. However! If your kid’s teeth aren’t touching, they don’t 100% need to floss, so now is the time to practice!
Even if you are not a flosser yourself, don’t let your kids think that it’s something that dentists just tell you to do, but that no one really does. Teach them better. Floss with them to prevent more issues down the road and also to not set them up for a traumatic first experience with the dentist.
This is a magic ingredient little spoken of, XYLITOL! You can find this in the sugar section of most “healthy” grocery stores, and also in gum sold in some toothbrush aisles. It’s a sweetener similar to sorbitol, found in Trident gum and many others. But it inhibits the growth of bacteria that causes cavities! You can chew gum with it, buy mints with it, and even use it as sugar in your coffee or to make your kids sweet tea, or kool aid. It’s a great alternative to sugar and doesn’t taste much different either!
Many people debate on whether or not Fluoride is good for you. I believe if you don’t do the research, just do what your doctor recommends. If you want to do the research you will find that the chances of Fluoride toxicity are very low. I say if you are concerned about Fluoride but on the fence about using it, consider your history with cavities….have you had many?, also consider their diet, if they have a diet high in carbs and sugar, or if they are cooperative when brushing. If they drink a lot of tap water and your water is fluoridated, I would totally understand a parent wanting to skip Fl treatments for their kids. I’ll likely go more into Fluoride in another post because it’s been very controversial for years, but to be clear. If you forgo Fluoride that does not mean your kid will have cavities. They are just at a higher risk.